The air was hot, and humid- sweat beading, dripping down his temple as he wet his lips- parched from dehydration, exhaustion seemingly set deep in his bones.
In actuality, Eingana's gravitational force was lighter than Earth's- which should have left everything with a certain degree of weightlessness- but the humidity made everything feel heavy, made everything feel thick around, above him. He was hyper-aware of the way his undersuit, designed to wick sweat and moisture away from the skin and promote circulation, was chafing, rubbing uncomfortably at his skin, and that just proved to make everything worse- he briefly entertained the idea of stripping down to indecency- as far as he was aware, there was no other sapient life around them, and his nudity was anything but unfamiliar to his squad-mates.
Not that he particularly cared about modesty, either way.
"Don't even think about it," Came a static, disembodied voice through his comms device, prompting him to crack a wry smile- audio not entirely clear, connection not quite stable, but not any less expressive or telling because of it.
Although, perhaps, he just knew Jongdae too well, and had been on the receiving end of his irritation, his whining, too many times to count. He pointedly didn't reply.
The ground was wet, mucky, and he grimaced as his boots sank into it, taking slow, careful steps, lest he disturb something potentially lying beneath. It was eerily quiet- but he supposed that could mostly be attributed to the fact that the planet had nearly been wiped out entirely, more than once- the debris and wreckage of crashed spaceships scattered across the uneven terrain, polluting it and serving as a testament to that fact.
"I don't like this, Baekhyun," Jongdae's staticky voice murmured quietly through the comms once more, as the squad ventured further into the dense underbrush and the gnarly trunks of enormous trees. What the planet lacked in sentient life, it made up for in fauna and lush vegetation- everything was almost unbelievably green, the land and biota flourishing as though to say fuck you to the radiation and abundance of refined Element Zero that had attempted to smother it, to extinguish it. It had adapted almost too seamlessly, both the pre-existing, and alien creatures advancing, prospering, and developing biotic abilities of their own that had inevitably put unwelcome explorers, scientists, archeologists, in grave danger without a fully suited, armed team to back them up or defend them.
The planet itself was thriving, the scenery was beautiful, and if he hadn't been so uncomfortable- perhaps he could even have enjoyed it.
Still, while the atmosphere felt heavy, the air was fresh, was rich with oxygen- he couldn't recall the last time he'd been able to venture out onto a planet, on foot, without wearing a ventilation mask or helmet, without needing to worry about his air supply running out if he took too long.
Which also meant that his team was subjected to his nonsensical ramblings, complete lack of filter, and general obnoxiousness. When his voice was muffled, they didn't need to hear his incessant chatter or hear him unconsciously carrying out entire conversations with himself.
"We'll be in and out of here as quickly as we can be," He responded, attempting to placate him. He heard Kyungsoo scoff behind him- everyone knew that wasn't true. Quickly wasn't a possibility when venturing out into unexplored, uncharted territory.
Not with Baekhyun, anyways.
"Look, there's nothing coming up on the scanner, right?" He waited for Jongdae's confirmation before continuing. "See? We're perfectly safe," He chided, "The only thing that's gonna hurt anyone here is how tight these fucking suits are- seriously, why couldn't we have thought to put on something a little lighter?" As anticipated, no one dignified him with a response.
"It's hot, my skin is chafing, worse than getting fucked by a Turian-" He heard Kyungsoo, his Turian squadmate, protest, squawk indignantly, behind him.
"And my balls are sweating buckets, this-"
"Baekhyun," he heard Yixing murmur to his left, cutting him off mid-sentence- it took a lot to shut him up, but he always silenced himself whenever Yixing had something to say.
He didn't get to respond before the sound of thunderous footsteps, rapidly approaching them, reached his ears. The next thing anyone heard or said was an eloquent, "Oh fuck," From Baekhyun.
Any thoughts of taking the thing out were dispelled when it became clear that there were numerous sets of footsteps coming their way.
"You guys need to run," Urged Jongdae, panic thinly concealed in his tone. "Whatever those things are, you can't take them out before they'll take you out. Not head on."
They didn't even get the chance to to do so before three monstrous creatures, almost prehistoric in appearance, were bursting through the trees- adrenaline kicking in as their imminent danger became increasingly more apparent.
Of course, Baekhyun just… Stood there, as he stared up at them, frozen in shock, some choice expletives leaving his lips before Jongdae was pushing him into motion once more.
"Run, you imbecile!" Baekhyun didn't even consider protesting before he bolted- a dozen red flags going off in his head when he realized that he and his squadmates had been split up, because this was certainly not the way to explore an alien planet with fauna alone that could easily kill you- if you happened to piss it off, or run into it, or maybe even both.
To say that they'd been unprepared was an understatement.
It was all he could do, to hope that no one would get seriously injured, as he ran as fast as his legs could carry him, quite literally running for his life- monstrous hadn't simply been a descriptor.
In actuality, whatever it was that had stampeded through the forestry, trees creaking, swinging precariously as their large bodies forced their way through- they were monsters in every sense of the word.
'Are those-" Baekhyun began, breathlessly.
"Rylkor," Came Jongdae's voice- static now accompanied by the fact that his comm device was cutting in and out- worsening, the further Baekhyun ran.
"Why the fu- Oh Shit, Shit-" Baekhyun slipped on the sloped, wet earth just as the realization dawned on him that he was heading straight towards the overhang of a cliff, forcing him to scramble for purchase as he skidded to a halt. His heart raced in his chest as he stopped just short of the edge- blending in seamlessly with the dimmed surroundings, he had just narrowly avoided going over.
Before he could sigh in relief, before he could move out of the way, one of the Rylkor was charging towards him at full speed- only, it didn't attempt to stop as he had, barrelling towards him even faster with the aid of the ground beneath its feet running at a steep angle.
"Baekhyun!" Jongdae's voice crackled through his comms device, the creature simultaneously making impact with his much, much smaller body.
They both went over the edge, bodies gaining more momentum the further they fell.
Baekhyun hit the ground first- the thick vegetation and grasses beneath, in combination with his own meager weight and thick armor, proving to cushion his fall substantially and preventing any serious damage from occurring.
The Rylkor followed suit- likely having been met with a delay, in struggling to avoid falling after colliding with the human.
While he didn't manage to roll out of the way entirely, he moved just far enough that his head wasn't crushed beneath the Rylkor's clawed feet when it landed- the creature easily seeming to regain it's balance and looming directly over him- thick, viscous saliva dripping down from it's gaping maw, beady eyes staring down at him.
It was at too close of a range for Baekhyun to shoot it with an arrow- and no normal blade, no matter how strongly it was forged, would pierce through the thick plates armoring the beasts gigantic body.
Pinned beneath its weight as the creature closed in on him, he clenched his eyes shut and squirmed helplessly underneath it. His comms device was emitting constant static, signalling that he had lost contact with their ship.
Suddenly, the discomfort of his bodysuit and the professed sweatiness of his testis was the last thing on his mind.
His newfound primary concern being the fact that he hadn't managed to finish off his stash of freeze-dried neapolitan ice-cream. Kyungsoo would eat it just to spite him- he just knew it, even if everyone else aboard their ship thought it was disgusting. To Baekhyun, a simple terran with simplistic terran tastes and cravings, it was a delicacy.
He'd die, he'd get eaten, and he hadn't even managed to enjoy the dessert he had stowed away for some hypothetical special occasion that he'd never get the opportunity to even experience. He'd gone through great lengths to borrow it from a supplier that he probably couldn't show his face to ever again.
A positively vicious, yet somehow familiar sounding snarl reached him from a distance, snapped him out of his split-second reverie- eyes shooting open upon coming to the sudden realization that the sound certainly hadn't come from the creature above him.
Great. He internalized with grim acceptance. He'd already been struggling to make peace with his impending doom, and now a second thing had seen fit to join in on the action.
Admittedly, he found a degree of satisfaction of the fact that he probably tasted like absolute shit- choosing not to acknowledge that the creatures inhabiting the foreign, dangerous planet almost certainly weren't particularly picky eaters.
Turning his head from side to side yielded no discernible success in attempting to figure out what the hell it was that had joined them. Perhaps it was for the best.
A second snarl came again, just a few seconds later in succession, followed by the Rylkor's enormous body being knocked clean off of him- crashing down onto it's side with a piercing, eardrum bursting screech.
Baekhyun wasted no time in scrambling to push himself upright, clambering to get away from the scene playing out just before him and dragging himself backwards with a minute wince- apparently the fall had hurt him more than he'd initially thought it had. He didn't have the time to fret as he blinked rapidly.
The Rylkor had been barreled over by a Varren- snake-headed, and with the body shape and tail of a dog, covered in scales all over- a species that certainly didn't belong, nor originate on Eingana- only, the creature was more massive than any Varren he'd ever had the displeasure of encountering before. He watched in both muted shock and complete disbelief as the Varren proceeded to almost effortlessly tear into the plated neck of the downed predator- silencing it's cries in a matter of just seconds.
Baekhyun swallowed dryly, praying, silently, to a deity he didn't believe in for the Varren to simply move on without paying him any mind.
Considering the fact that a Varren's diet ideally consisted of human, he deemed the likelihood of him making it out unscathed next to null. Truthfully, he deemed the likelihood of him making it out at all, impossible.
He remained stalk still- scared to breathe, scared to even blink, heart racing when the Varren turned to look at him. Heart skipping a few beats, when it began stalking towards him, mouth agape, and looking every bit the man-eating predator it had been bred to be.
Running would be pointless- the Varren could close the distance between them in a mere fraction of a second. He had a better chance at surviving in not moving at all, in not adding to the thrill of the hunt by initiating a chase. It got closer, and closer, massive body sunk low to the ground, and only pausing when there were mere inches between their faces- inhaling, scenting him audibly. Baekhyun's eyebrows furrowed when it's jaw clacked shut, felt like he was going into cardiac arrest when the Varren leaned in and starting licking the sweat that had formed on his face and brow. Narrowly, he fought back a grimace.
Alongside a bout of laughter, because the situation was absolutely insane. What were the odds of him meeting a friendly, mutant Varren on a dangerous, foreign planet, where he'd already just barely avoided being eaten once.
Provided he made it back to the ship, there wasn't a chance in hell that his team would believe him.
It's breath smelled terrible, and now, so did his face- but there were certainly worse things he'd stumbled upon.
After a few minutes, the Varren backed up- leaning down to close it's mouth around his ankle. Baekhyun's heart sank- knowing he really shouldn't have expected anything less. Of course it wasn't just going to let him go.
To Baekhyun's pleasant surprise, it didn't sink it's teeth into his flesh, didn't break the skin, nor tear into the thick fabric of his fatigues. The Varren bit down just hard enough for it to hurt, grip just tight enough that when it moved, it dragged Baekhyun along with him.
Briefly, he considered fighting it- considered kicking, and screaming, but rationalized that it wouldn't do him a lot of good. It would only serve to aggravate the creature, so instead, Baekhyun soundlessly and willingly went along for the ride- wincing as his back slid, dragged over the rough terrain.
He entertained the possibility of the Varren dragging him into it's den- perhaps for safekeeping, maybe it just wasn't hungry, and it intended on eating him later.
But it stopped just in front of the door of a wreckage that appeared to be a crashed spaceship.
Owed to a series of wars, battles that had been fought roughly 127 000 years prior, above Eingana and it's single moon, hundreds upon hundreds of ships had been put out of commission, if not having been destroyed entirely. Eingana's gravity eventually had pulled them all out of orbit, the planet's beautiful, green surface quickly being converted into a massive graveyard- alongside a dump, with scraps and debris littering the entirety of it's surface, the fuel and cracked open cores of the ships slowly infecting the planet and effectively wiping out almost everything, alongside making it uninhabitable, for a time.
But with Eingana having thrived, having bounced back into a stronger, more lethal version of it's previous self, the planet was more deadly than ever before- alongside an excellent location for finding the rare resources that the ships had either held, or been composed of. The refined Element Zero and the EEZO cores that each individual ship contained, were the primary motivator for his team visiting Eingana- to sell, and to trade, as a valuable resource that was nearly impossible to find on most planets.
The doorway of the ship was wide open- it's airlock missing entirely.
He wasn't sure that he wanted to see what was inhabiting it- not without the safety of his fellow mercenaries as backup.
The Varren dropped his leg- sitting down next to his prone form with an audible huff, looking down at him almost… Expectantly. Slowly, with a muffled groan, he made to sit up- apparently staying still for a few seconds too long, as the creature leaned down to butt him with it's head, as though to urge him forward, and knocked him back down instead.
"Okay, Okay," He grumbled, unsteadily getting to his feet, eyes narrowing when the Varren echoed the sound- eyes boring holes into him.
The fucker was mocking him.
"So pushy…" He sighed, with an exaggerated eye-roll, before slowly making his way into the ominous, dark, open doorway.
He wrinkled his nose in distaste when he neared- a pungent, stale smell assaulting his senses and making his eyes water. It wasn't bad, per se- but incredibly strong, alongside being entirely unidentifiable. He chanced a glance backwards to find the Varren still watching him- letting him know that running, that leaving, was neither a viable option, nor a possibility. For whatever reason, the creature seemingly wanted him to enter the wrecked ship- and despite the fact that he could practically hear Jongdae's staticky voice over his deactivated comms, telling him to turn around, to be careful, to think about what you're doing, Baekhyun, he proceeded to enter the ship regardless.
Out of sight, out of mind- or at least something to that effect… Right? What his team wouldn't know couldn't hurt them.
Every cell in his body protested violently with each step forward- and while Baekhyun was a lot of things, he wasn't hesitant to admit that he was afraid. Terrified. Possibly on the verge of pissing his pants.
The entire situation was too many shades of fucked up to count, was completely inconceivable.
A fact which was only amplified when he found what he could only assume to be what the Varren had bodily dragged him there for.
Propped up against the side of the ship, with it's head bowed forward, and face obscured by strands of icy hair, was a vaguely humanoid figure- completely, eerily still, silent, and certainly not breathing.
In approaching, he ran the risk of getting his face torn off- anything under the protection and watchful eye of a Varren couldn't be something remotely safe, nor good.
He approached regardless. The sooner he got it over with, the better.
Baekhyun cleared his throat, taking slow, cautious steps towards the unmoving form and dropping into a crouch. He inched forward, until the toe of his boot knocked against the sole of one of it's shoes, the figures long legs splayed out awkwardly before it.
He grimaced, nudging his shoe a little harder and clearing his throat once more- it was all he could do to hope that the thing would awake without him needing to make any further contact. He'd been in enough predicaments with unknown, alien lifeforms, to know better than to touch things he didn't understand.
Granted- a few of those predicaments, hadn't exactly been unpleasant or unwanted.
Baekhyun would say he just had the same sex-drive as any virile, warm-blooded man. Jongdae, another human in their small mercenary band, would tell him he was full of shit, and that Baekhyun really just had a chronic case of nymphomania.
'I'm a man, Dae- even if that were true, the correct term would be satyriasis.'
"Satyriasis applies to men who have the compulsive desire to have sex with women."
"My point is that you'll pretty much have sex with anything that moves and breathes- and even those two things are debatable."
"Baekhyun, you can't deny the fact that you generally happen to gravitate towards the males of any given species," Yixing input quietly, absently, as he scrolled down an article on his tablet.
'Just because you don't even know how to use your own dick-'
Yixing raised his head, arching an eyebrow upwards, as though challenging him to continue. Baekhyun wisely decided to silence himself before he made himself look like a complete imbecile.
He mentally slapped himself- now certainly wasn't the time to fantasize about getting plowed into by an alien he had yet to even properly see, let alone identify the species of.
There was a reason that Baekhyun was employed under the Talons- a mercenary organization, and not as a soldier under the Systems Alliance. Getting seduced by a subject you were meant to apprehend or take down, wasn't exactly by the book, nor very effective.
But, perhaps that was a story for another time.
After a few repetitions and continued unresponsiveness, Baekhyun went against his better judgement by creeping even closer- ducking down to peer into its impassive face. In the dimmed lighting of the ships dead interior, it's features were hard to make out, prompting him to reach out to take the thing's chin between his thumb and forefingers to tilt its face up towards him.
He squinted, head cocking to the side.
"Soft," He muttered almost subconsciously, throwing caution to the wind by closing the distance between them by straddling it's thigh- dropping it's chin in favor of gently, carefully cupping the side of it's face, thumb brushing over it's cheek. Through his gloves, it wasn't as though he could actually feel the texture- though, perhaps, he wanted to. Rather, it was the appearance- the nameless creature in question looked soft- definitive, but not particularly pronounced.
Upon further inspection, he found large, pointed ears poking through thick, silvery strands- a small smile finding his mouth before he could school his expression again with the knowledge that the thing before him could very well likely no longer be alive.
Taking it by it's shoulders- he jostled it gently- head lolling lifelessly to one side, and Baekhyun may or may not have felt his heart sink.
It was impossibly cute- taking into account that Baekhyun had a fixation with all things extraterrestrial, and a hankering for species of non-human descent.
But a dead, cute thing, was still a dead thing. A frown marred his face- eyebrows drawing together, and he could practically hear the little voice in the back of his mind warning him against developing any sort of attachment, telling him that he was insane for looking at it with anything beyond a cool, clinical interest.
It wasn't at all an infatuation, or even a substantial attraction- Just a fascination. Perhaps, a borderline unhealthy interest.
Primarily, it was a species he couldn't even identify the name, or origin of. Baekhyun was intrigued.
A high frequency screech coming from the speaker of his comms shook him from his reverie- had him blinking rapidly as though to clear his thoughts.
"Baek- h - yun-" The device stuttered before being overridden by sharp static. Baekhyun frowned, backing up again to sit on his haunches as he grabbed the device and listened carefully. A hard smack to the side of it proved to be enough for Jongdae's panicked voice to cut through to him again.
"Baekhyun! Baekhyun!" He called, tone betraying his evident concern.
"Hey, Dae-" He began, frowning when the man in question cut him off again, "Baekhyun! Thank god- are you okay? Are you injured? Where are y-"
"Calm down, calm down," He urged with a sigh, taking a deep breath when Jongdae quieted.
"I'm fine, just relax. You're working yourself up over noth-"
"Over nothing?!" He screeched indignantly, and Baekhyun just narrowly fought the urge to roll his eyes. "Do you even know what the success rate is for missions carried out on Eingana? 30%, Baekhyun. That's fuck-all. You could have fucking died!"
Baekhyun sighed audibly, massaging at his temples before attempting to placate him,"Okay, okay. Just breathe, Dae. I understand, alright? We can talk about it later."
"Where are you?" He could hear the resignation and concern in his voice- and he almost felt bad. Almost.
He pointedly decided to omit the part about him falling off of a cliff and nearly getting his head smashed in. "I'm in a broken down ship, I'm sending you my location now. Let me know if you see it."
"But, Dae- there's a little bit of a problem. I won't go into detail right now, but there may or may not be a… Huge Varren outside- and before you freak, it might sound pretty insane, but I think it intentionally brought me here."
He was met with a few extended seconds of silence.
"There's this…" A pause, Baekhyun rubbing at his temples, a headache coming on. "Look, you're gonna need to see it for yourself. We'll need more than two people over here." A few seconds later, "The team is okay?" He tried carefully.
"They're fine," he answered, response clipped.
He could practically hear how pissed off he was. Baekhyun winced.
"We're on our way now," Came another voice, "And, Baekhyun, get your communications device fixed already."